Getting A High-End Look with Inexpensive Gear

by planetMitch1 Comment

This is a guest post from Tim Hicks. He and I met on the chat application on the lower right of the planet5D blog that shows up only when I’m online (which is usually in the mornings USA time)… we talked for a bit about DSLR video and he told me a bit of the story below, so I asked him to write it up for a guest post.

Hello Mitch,
We spoke a few weeks ago using the chat app on your website. I was the guy in Poplar Bluff Missouri that is friends with Drew Janes (from Defy gimbals). You asked me to write a little something up for you that you might be able to use. Below is an idea that I put together for you.

Using Canon 7D and GoPro in Broadcast Production

Like most creatives, I wanted my work to stand out and have a high-quality look, but that usually comes with a large price tag. Regional cable TV ads can sometimes make viewers cringe with their cheesy scripts and heavy use of ENG style cameras.

While these cameras maybe well suited for news gathering, they often do not offer an attractive attention getting image that presents itself as high-quality.

In my market, I have been able to use a Canon 7D and a GoPro to produce some footage that my clients are very happy with. While it may not have the color space or bit depth of high-end cameras, I can still produce stuff that catches attention.

This footage even seems to look good on the big screen because a couple of my clients advertise at the movie theater during the coming attractions.

I have several car dealers as clients. And I don't want to produce those typical local car commercials. You know the ones where someone stands in front of the dealership shouting with prices flashing on the screen. So I wrote some treatments and story-lines that I figured I could produce and still stay in budget. The advertisement below is an example of one of my no crew videos. I found the actor (the cowboy) locally by visiting the local community college. I have found that students work cheap and just love to have the experience. The voiceover talent (believe it or not) was a salesman at the dealership that I was producing the ad for.

The concept I had in my head was that the announcer voice needed to sound like the film star, Sam Elliot. I knew I had found something special when I stumbled upon this talented man and his gritty cowboy voice.

So don't forget to look right under your nose when searching for voice talent. You may not need to hire that expensive voiceover artist after all.

This is another example spot was done around Christmas time. One of the actors owns the dealership and the other is our local department store Santa. I was in a hurry when doing this shoot because the dealership owner had to leave and I had less than one hour to get the footage I needed.

The final example is for a music store. One of the actors owns the business and the other is a friend of mine from work.

I hope these ideas are helpful for anyone with big expectations and small budgets. It is about doing the best you can with what you have and thinking outside the box.

I am always devouring information on websites like , that is how I keep up with the fast paced creative industry.

Timothy Hicks is a Digital Media Director for Max Media's Southeast Missouri location (River Radio). His use of affordable camera technology, creative scripts, and utilizing local talent, has helped to fill a niche by shooting local broadcast ads with small budgets and no crew.

Timothy Hicks

River Radio
573-429-4046 cell

Non-Discrimination. MRR, LLC does not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity in the placement, scheduling and completion or purchase of advertising. Any order for advertising that includes any such restriction will not be accepted.

(cover photo credit: snap from Timothy Hicks)


  1. Timothy makes me think of another important point for all of us one-man-band production “crews.”  If you do get some money that you want to invest back into equipment, today, more than ever, you really have to think about what you can purchase that will make your video stand out from the rest.  We have certainly faced this.  We don’t have an equipment “budget.”  We buy new gear when we can afford to.  So, when the boss and I talked about what we needed, a camera came up first because, after all, that’s THE tool we MUST have to do what we do.  We use a Canon 5D Mark II.  I’d love to upgrade to a new large chip camera, maybe one more adapter to video but since the average viewer will not see the difference between video I shoot with my current camera (and grade well) and a Canon C300 let’s say (expecially after the cable company or TV stations get the spot and start compressing it), we opted instead for a quad copter and a stabilizer.  When we bought the quad copter, no one in this market had one so video we shot was truly unique.  And even though several others do have drones now, we have been flying ours long enough to be better at it than amateurs.  The stabilizer (The Ghost) really gives our video a great look.  We move over stuff, through stuff or, just have rock steady images when we’re handheld.

    A couple of years ago we bought a small jib and there is nothing like a smooth boom move to give your videos that “Hollywood” look.  That’s why our customers keep coming back to us for their spots.  No one can match the professional, high-end look of our videos.  Sure, some of these extras are cheap enough now that almost anyone can buy one but not many guys can afford to buy all at once. We’ve been adding and adding for several years so we’re way ahead of anyone who wants to try and compete with us.

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